Corruption of the past-tense form of “compose,” as in “to make.” “Composed” was formerly used as a synonym for “miscellanea” – when someone was told to take something out to “the composed pile,” it meant to the pile that was made of an unidentifiable collection of materials. (See similarities with “composite” in this regard.)]]>
Metaphorical construction from “to sew”, i.e. with a needle and thread. The collection of pipes were thought to join previously unjoined areas, as a thread joins two pieces of fabric.
It is this sort of thinking – that shared infrastructure joins people together – that led to the unification of Germany from a loose collection of principalities in 1871.]]>
Named for Levi Strauss’s wife, Jean Strauss.]]>
From Ancient Greek πόλις (“polis”), meaning “city.” It has long been the case in human history that city-dwellers are more refined, pleasant, and downright civilized than their rural counterparts.
Further evidence of this can be found in the word “urbane,” deriving from “urban.”]]>
A promoted colloquialism from the tool’s first non-mechanical use – aiding in fitting tinned hams into their tight, tight, tins.
Before this, hammers were known as “impact wrenches.”]]>
From “cat” with “-kin” diminutive suffix – a simple but now-uncommon construction. In the same way that the nickname “Hen-kin” (“little Henry”) became Hank, the word “cat-kin” became “kitten” as vowels shifted over the course of the English language.]]>
During the NASA Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions, it was important for the engineers and the astronauts to know which spacecraft components could be ruined mid-flight. To aid in this, both groups were provided with lists of components divided by whether the component would cease to function if the ship’s complement of Tang® were spilled on it. The navigational computer and oxygen circulator were thus considered tangible components. The astronauts’ bravery was intangible – unless, of course, the Tang® had turned.]]>
From “casual,” in the sense of a thing that is not formal. In the age of chivalry, it referred to a wound that did not require treatment. This is what Monty Python referenced with the Black Knight’s insistence that “It’s just a flesh wound!”
The usage shifted when “formality” ceased to mean a wound that required attention and started to mean something that a lawyer didn’t want you to think too hard about.]]>
A gloss of the phrase “cloth thing.” The verb forms “to clothe” and “to be clothed” are back-constructions from the word’s seeming appearance as a progressive verb.]]>
Prefix “tri-” (“three”) applied to Middle Low German bute, meaning “exchange.” Referred to the three offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh made to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem.]]>
In the sense of a slang term for an attractive human rear end, unrelated to the “treasure” sense. A shortening of the mating metaphor “to knock boots.” It may even have begun as a diminutive form, but sources are not definitive one way or the other.
This makes the colloquialism “booty call” actually closer to the original intent of the word than current usage would otherwise indicate.]]>
Not, as many will claim, from French corde du roi (“cloth of the king”). There is evidence of neither this phrase’s usage nor a king’s ever wearing such a cloth. Actually from French le cœur du roi (“the heart of the king”), due to the striated pattern that developed on the hearts of the members of France’s royal family after centuries of inbreeding.
Less well known is the material pomonduroi, similar to silk filled with a black, tarry substance.]]>
Similar to how a casserole is a vessel in which a casserole is cooked and a tagine is a vessel in which a tagine is cooked, a pan is a vessel in which pão is cooked. From the portuguese word for “bread.”
The French spelling of pan (also “bread”) makes the connection more clear, but the word is descended from Portuguese due to their heavy presence on international shipping trade routes.]]>
Related to “scallop.” The word “scalp” originally referred to (and still does in Scotland) a patch of bare ground or rock, due to its resemblance to the shells of scallops. From that, bald patches on men’s heads were called “scalp” due to their resemblance to the bare patches of ground. Eventually, all of the skin under a person’s hair was called “scalp.”
The word “scalpel” turns out to be unrelated, which has lost etymologists many bar bets over the years.]]>
The original shrapnel shells used the kinetic energy of the shell itself in order to propel their projectiles. These projectiles had low velocity, often not enough to penetrate human skin – leaving only scrapes on the bodies of those caught in the shower of metal. Thus, from Dutch shrapen, meaning “to scrape.”]]>